The turn of the year

This tweet, in the last five minutes from my friend @Annette1Hardy cleverly pre-empts what I’m going to say tonight:

 

 

It was a year ago today that I started writing  daily blog post. I’m not even sure why I set myself this challenge. It was something to do with the discipline of journal-keeping but probably more linked to my general prevarication with blog posts. I am inclined, you see, to let a post chunter away in my brain while I put off writing it. It’s part of a perfection/paralysis mindset which, for my blog at least, I have now lost.

I’m pleased about this. Just opening up my laptop and starting to type a post is liberating. It doesn’t matter whether the post is well- or badly-written, and there have been both types. The most important thing is that it’s written and out there. And I have used my voice.

I was asked recently by a bewildered family member who’s not keen on social media why I keep my blog. Why would I air my most personal feelings to goodness knows whom? I still don’t know the answer to this. Does it stem from a need to express myself? If so, why not write a journal and keep it to myself? Is it about sharing my feelings with people who might be sharing the same feelings, going through the same stuff? Is it hopelessly exhibitionist: do I get a kick out of exposing myself to you all? I don’t know.

I do know, however, that I’ve managed to find something to say on most of these 366 evenings, even if I’m exhausted and can hardly string a sentence together. Sometimes it’s had to be a dull photo. Sometimes it’s uninspired prose. But it’s been from the heart.

At times writing a daily post has been just another chore, and this was particularly true when I was finding it hard to fit in all of my daily obligations to include singing practice for my diploma. I know that I haven’t been able to read or knit or crochet as much with the daily blog obligation and sometimes I’m up until far too late in the night trying to write. Next year I shall try to get to bed earlier: I have aged and the blog, as sleep thief, has played its part.

There have been one or two sticky moments along the way too but I’m not going to dwell further on those if only to save myself from the knowing I-told-you-so looks of people who disapprove of the time I spend on here and on Twitter and on Facebook, connecting with people, telling them how I feel. I hope it’s an exchange and not merely a broadcast. I’ve concluded that it’s impossible to explain the appeal of Twitter etc. to those people. They’ve never wanted or needed to feel a connection so why would they try to understand?

I decided in the last year that it is increasingly impossible to have a reasonable, nuanced debate on social media. It seems to have descended ever more quickly into a tribalist slanging match, and this blog has been useful for expressing my ideas in full. I shall continue to use it in that way, I think, as I might be stepping back from Twitter for a little while, if only to regain my life, my sense of perspective. I take things too seriously – it’s is a prime character flaw of mine – and I find it ever harder to scroll down without feeling bruised. For the sake of my sanity, that has to stop.

I see this blog as an organic, evolving thing. I’ve always written on a whim, gone where the fancy takes me and I shall continue to do this. This might in the future be a food blog; a rant blog; a photoblog; a blog of reviews or an opinion column. Or all of those. Or none. Inspiration might suddenly collar me: I might suddenly get good at photography or share a song. Who knows where life will take me in the next year? Who can tell? But being freed from the obligation of writing something, ANYTHING every day will, I hope, improve the quality of the writing. I’ll still be here, but not quite so regularly.

I’d like to conclude by thanking all of you who subscribe to this blog and comment on here or on Twitter or in real life. That you have stayed with me and carried on reading has been a source of some astonishment to me. You’ve stayed with me and kept me company. Perhaps I’ve kept you company also. There are those of you who have assiduously Liked and Retweeted my daily posts and I’m so grateful for these gestures of support. You know who you are.

That’s about all for tonight. I expect I’ll mark the coming of 2016 in some way or other tomorrow. Who knows how? Until then, let me wish you all a good and peaceful continuation of your Christmas and New Year break (if you’re having one) and joy for your heart.

Just chill

It’s a long holiday, isn’t it, Christmas and New Year?

We have such busy lives and then, after the build up to Christmas day and the tumult of writing cards and buying and wrapping presents; of planning and executing menus; of discovering that you have only two wineglasses and remedying this, suddenly, with a bump it’s all over.

We have had only four days away this year (not counting my trips to India which can be, I admit, a bit of respite from the daily race against time that is my life.) Oh I know I don’t actually have a career anymore, but I still live by my watch because my time still belongs to other people. And dogs. Perhaps it’s because I feel I have to fill my day in order to justify my existence. I don’t know that either.

But at Christmas the volunteering rota changes; there’s no choir and the singing lessons have reached a hiatus whilst I await the result of my Diploma – Shhh! I don’t want to talk about it. Everyone is home so I don’t have to walk the dogs every day and there is so much leftover food that it’s not necessary to cook beyond a short trip in the direction of the toaster.

What does one do to relax? Well, I’ve gone to bed late for me for the last few nights, and I’ve still got this lingering cold – as has the OH, who is ALWAYS ill the moment he stops work – so that’s meant a late start in the morning. And today I spent hours doing my normal Sunday ironing.

The Boywonder, home from Canada after sitting end of term exams until late on Tuesday evening, seems bereft and shellshocked though perhaps he’ll calm down and learn to relax in the next day or two. Some of it is jet lag, I’m sure.

I feel I should be doing something constructive: I have a crocheted throw to finish and a book to read but I’m whileing away the days on Twitter or FB or just listening to the radio. It feels wrong. I feel I should be busy.

I’ve heard that Christmas and holidays are the tensest time in family relationships and I can believe this. Perhaps it’s partly because we’ve lost the ability to relax and chill and talk and breathe and think together without some sound or picture coming at us through space. Or partly because we’re normally too busy with ordinary normal life to sit and think about who we are and how we relate to people and when we are forced to stop we face a reminder of who we and they actually are. Does this make sense? I’m probably rambling again.

It’s like when you’ve been on holiday for a week or so and, though it’s lovely, you long to get back home and stuck into the laundry until it’s done.

I needed a rest though, some down time. And what I really need to now is sleep so I’ll wish you all goodnight.

On Christmas stress

 

How are the Christmas preparations going?

I have unresolved messy lights on a potted tree outside my house. Today I bought baubles and hoped they would magically be placed on this tree but when I returned home this evening, they were still in the hall.

I brought my artificial tree – I find an annual cut tree too upsetting to chuck away – in and it sits looking far too small and, as yet, undecorated in the cavernous new sitting room space. Most other decorations are still in our storage locker in Bromley and will have to be retrieved tomorrow.

Have you written your cards yet? Have you sorted out the people in your diary to whom you send cards every year who never send you a card and you shrug and say, “Well, fair enough, they’re just not into Christmas cards,” (maybe you say “They’re just not into me,“) and then you get an unexpected card from them and you’ve deleted them from your contacts so you feel guilty and ashamed?

Maybe, like us, you’ve just got a card from New Zealand and you know full well that, even if you manage to reciprocate, the card you send won’t arrive there until Easter.

If you receive a faceless corporate card from a faceless corporate, do you send one back? Do you send one to each and every one of the people who have signed your picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the snow with robins? I don’t know.

What about the Christmas presents? Have you decided on a plan about who is to give presents to whom of those sitting around your Christmas table? As yet ours still hangs in the air. We seem to have decided that the younger generation will receive presents but as for their parents, well, who knows? Do we give token presents, (knowing full well that peoples’ perceptions of tokens differ widely) or do we decide that we can forego mindless consumerism and give nothing? Apparently, since I’m hosting, it’s my decision. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet and I’m aware that the clock is ticking inexorably towards Christmas day. My decision. My responsibility.

My favoured option is either a Secret Santa deal, which won’t happen because I’d have to organise it, or maybe people bring interesting consumable presents like, I don’t know, an artisan Somerset goat’s cheese or home-picked walnuts or something. Really, that’s not too controversial, is it? Whatever happens, if it goes wrong it will be my responsibility.

What really irks me every year is that I seem to be the one thinking of ideas for other people’s presents. As if I’m not doing everything else. As if some, not all, but some of these people haven’t got all the time in the world to think or shop. Which makes me anxious that one or other of my children will get a crappy present from someone in their own family because I haven’t stepped in to sort it out. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not doing the internet shopping on behalf of too many other people this year, as I have before.

It’s all very stressful, isn’t it, and it’s the same way every year. Stop the madness, I say. Do your cards in July and if you fall out with someone in November, just don’t post their card. Refuse to get involved with the presents and then the givers will just have to use their damn brains themselves. Set an alarm to make your pudding or cake (I am set to make my Christmas cake tomorrow – watch this space for more of that.)

We all say it but we never do it.

As I write this, it feels so ungracious. At least we can have a Christmas unlike all those people whose lives have been ripped apart by homelessness and war or broken relationships or illness or loneliness. Maybe we should be grateful just to be able to muddle through.

 

 

Why do they do it?

Why do they do it?

Fellow #thearchers tweetalongers have been exercised for some months now about the revolting, slithery, Machiavellian character of Rob Titchenor, quickly dubbed The Titchyknob. Now that his character has developed in such a sinister way, I can no longer bring myself to refer to him by a comical moniker.

Quite apart from his gradual, yet stunning takeover of Helen‘s personality and independence, which is systematically robbing her of any self-confidence she might once have possessed, Rob Titchenor likes to meddle in other people’s affairs.

He works by charming people to trust him and share their confidences with him, perhaps while under the influence of alcohol or in other unguarded moments – because we can’t all be on our guard al the time, right? He then uses these tiny shards of information against people to pursue goodness knows what personal agenda.

Last night he informed soon-to-be wed LovelyIan about Adam, his intended’s, minor misdemeanour. We Tweetalongers, as well as the 5 million or so other avid The Archers fans, had our ears pinned to the radio tonight, phones on divert, to hear the dénouement of this story. Would Ian call off the wedding at the last minute? Would Rob stand up and declare an impediment? Many of us are beyond ready for evil Rob to get his comeuppance and we want to see his blood-oozing entrails spread out for a sky burial with the crows on Lakey Hill, so despised a character (and so well written and acted) is he.

Alas, we shall have to wait a while longer for our bloody revenge as Ian decided to be the bigger man and forgive Adam’s transgressions. We are all but flesh, I guess.

Rob was denied his messy scene – how choked he was at this realisation – and we shall have to wait a little longer for a resolution of this terrible storyline that has many devout listeners reaching for the off switch as they are finding this domestic abuse storyline so painful. It’s realistic, I’m told. Horribly so.

But I set to wondering exactly why someone feels that they have to meddle in other people’s lives; to extract incriminating disclosures from vulnerable, trusting people and use them only to for harm. What is their motivation? Why do they do it?

Could it be that they seek attention or validation? Is it that passing on heavily-embroidered gossip empowers them? Do they wish people to fear their impact? I don’t know.

I am a simple soul, I know this, and the thought of extracting and using such information to manipulate and humiliate people would never even occur to me. What sort of person would I be if it did? How could it do anything but harm my credibility?

And yet this has happened to me fairly recently in real life – I’m not going into the details again – and I’m left wondering about the motivation of the person who did it. Yes, I was indiscreet and I should not have replied with such candour to a leading question on Social Media, but generally one trusts those who purport to be one’s friends. And this friend was not worthy of my trust.

This person has now lost my trust and friendship and, it would seem, that of someone whom she valued more than me. Other people are still taken in by the charm and the flirtatiousness, but I am grateful to have now seen the other side of this.

Luckily this friendship wasn’t particularly close or longstanding, and I now see how my naive good faith was ruthlessly manipulated and exploited, but I still don’t understand what would prompt someone to meddle in such a harmful and undignified way.

It’s left me feeling bruised and wary. Who is watching? How can I be myself in public? How will any slight indiscretion be exploited and held against me? I also feel defensive: I seem surrounded by people only too keen to remind me and reiterate the “dangers” of exposing one’s soul on Social Media. I wonder how superior it makes them feel when they say those things that reflect their own personal prejudices. This just makes it worse.

It’s a December Monday night and I’m tired and hormonal and so this situation looks bleaker than it otherwise might. I am shaking my head and still finding it astounding that someone would behave like this. I have no doubt that Rob Titchenor will get Karma’s reward in the end – that’s how fiction works. I only wish that real life were quite so neat and tidy.

 

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